Tag Archives: elk

Washington 2017 Deer, Elk, Bird Hunting Prospects Out

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

With hunting seasons for deer, elk, waterfowl and upland game birds set to get underway in September, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has issued its annual online guide to hunting opportunities throughout the state.

LOOKING FOR EVERGREEN STATE DEER, ELK, UPLAND BIRDS AND WATERFOWL PROSPECTS? WDFW’S 2017 HUNTING FORECASTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE FOR ALL OF WASHINGTON’S DISTRICTS. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

WDFW’s Hunting Prospects report, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/prospects/, provides updated information about game populations, hunting rules and land access in every game-management district in the state.

“This report was compiled by local wildlife biologists to help hunters succeed in the field,” said Anis Aoude, WDFW game division manager. “Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or just getting started, you’ll likely find some helpful information in Hunting Prospects.”

State game managers expect another good year of hunting, although hunters can expect new restrictions on deer and elk hunts in some areas due to the harsh conditions last winter. Meanwhile, hunting prospects for gamebirds are looking up, according to the report.

“This last winter was one of the tougher ones we’ve seen in recent years, and we have to give the herds – particularly those east of the Cascades – some time to rebuild,” Aoude said. “Fortunately, most Washington deer and elk benefitted from a previous string of mild winters, so the affected herds are only slightly below our population objectives.”

Late spring rains also delayed nesting for doves and some other upland game birds, but observations in the field indicate a good hatch this year, said Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl manager.

Especially encouraging is the boom in the state’s waterfowl populations, which have rebounded from the drought of 2015, Spragens said. Among the various species of ducks and geese that breed in Washington state, Canada geese are up by 17 percent, mallards are up by 74 percent and wood ducks are up by 76 percent from last year.

“This year’s long, wet spring was a boon to waterfowl in our state,” Spragens said. “Those local birds will be the focus of hunters’ attention until northern birds arrive later in the year from Canada and Alaska.”

Aoude asks that hunters pay special attention to several new rules that will take effect this year:

  • Youth-only hunts: The traditional bird hunt for hunters under age 16 has been split between two weekends this year, providing more options for them and the non-hunting parents, guardians and mentors who accompany them. The youth hunt for waterfowl is scheduled Sept. 16-17, followed by the youth hunt for pheasant and other upland game birds Sept. 23-24.
  • Goose bag limits: Starting Oct. 14, hunters in most areas will be allowed to take up to six white geese and 10 white-fronted geese – in addition to their limit of four Canada – per day. The change reflects the large number of white geese on the northern breeding grounds.
  • Special deer hunts: Youth hunters and hunters with disabilities can hunt any deer in Game Management Units (GMU) 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, and 121 from Oct. 14-15 and Oct. 21-22 during the modern firearm general season.
  • Hoof disease precaution: Several units have been added to the list of GMUs where hunters are required to remove and leave behind the hooves of harvested elk to reduce the spread of elk hoof disease. Those units include GMUs 633 and 636 in Mason County, and 407, 418, 437, and 454 in north Puget Sound.

These and other hunting regulations are described in WDFW’s Big Game Hunting pamphlet or Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlets, available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

However, for an overview of how those hunting seasons are shaping up in specific areas of the state, Aoude recommends checking the Hunting Prospects report.

“Most serious hunters are eager to get all the information they can before they go afield,” Aoude said. “The Hunting Prospects are designed to fill that demand.”

2017 Idaho Big Game Hunting Outlook

THE FOLLOWING IS AN IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME ORESS RELEASE

2017 should be another productive hunting season despite harsh winter

Idaho big game hunters have been on a roll in recent years with a top-10, all-time deer harvest in 2016, an all-time record whitetail harvest in 2015, and a top-five, all-time elk harvest in 2015.

Overall hunting success rates over the last five years have averaged 40 percent for deer and 23 percent for elk. Word has gotten out that big game hunting in Idaho has improved because the nonresident deer tags sold out last year for the first time since 2008, and only 300 nonresident elk tags (out of 10,415 available) remained unsold.

The 2017 tags are selling faster, and at current pace, Fish and Game could sell all the nonresident deer and nonresident elk tags by the end of October to nonresidents, or to residents as second tags.

So what does all that mean for big game hunters taking to the field this fall? They will see similar numbers of elk and white-tailed deer, but fewer mule deer.

graph_deer10yrharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Mule deer

Last winter took its toll on mule deer, particularly young bucks, because most of the fawns born last year died during winter, and they would have been two-points this fall.

Most of southern and central Idaho had record, or above-average snowfall, coupled with prolonged winter weather. Deer and elk weathered repeated snowstorms and snow depths not normally found on their traditional winter range coupled with Arctic temperatures. That prompted Fish and Game officials to launch a massive feeding effort that included up to 13,000 deer and 12,000 elk.

Despite that, statewide average survival for mule deer fawns was 30 percent, which was the second-lowest since winter fawn monitoring started 19 years ago.

The big question in many hunters’ minds is how much that will affect their fall deer hunts. Deer hunters killed 66,925 deer in 2016 (mule deer and whitetails), down slightly from the previous year, but still a respectable 36 percent success rate statewide, including 34 percent in general hunts.

graph_deerbyharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Like most things related to big game hunting, it’s hard to predict what will happen during the upcoming season because there are many variables, but past hunting seasons may provide some insight.

The 2011 deer harvest – which followed the lowest winter fawn survival since monitoring started in 1998 – was 2,555 fewer deer than the previous year, or a drop of 6 percent. Last winter actually tied with 2008-09 winter for second-lowest fawn survival at 30 percent, and in 2009, the deer harvest was 1,380 fewer than the previous year, a drop of 3 percent.

How does that happen?

There are a couple things to keep in mind. First, although mule deer fawn mortality was high in those years, whitetail herds were less affected by winter kill. Whitetails have typically comprised 30 to 40 percent of Idaho’s annual deer harvest during the last decade. That means sometimes white-tailed deer harvest compensates for fewer mule deer.

While last winter’s mule deer fawn survival was well below average, it was still not catastrophic to the overall mule deer population.

Adult mule deer doe survival was 90 percent, and although Fish and Game does not radio collar adult bucks and monitor them during winter, their survival likely tracked similar to does.

Yearling bucks (two-points) typically account for a significant share of the mule deer buck harvest, but over the last 19 years, annual average survival for fawns was 57 percent. While the 2016-17 winter fawn survival was about half the average, there’s still a large mule deer population remaining, including adult bucks and breeding-age does.

Mule deer

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

With a normal, upcoming winter, the herds could quickly rebound. To aid that, Fish and Game has reduced doe permits for most hunting units in southern and central Idaho to help more of them survive into breeding season.

Another thing to consider is prior to this year, mule deer populations were trending upward for several years, so while biologists expect a drop in the harvest, there’s a good chance it will fall within the range of the last five years.

Elk 

Hunters shouldn’t see a big change in elk populations this year. Elk are hardier than deer and able to withstand the rigors of hard winters, and elk herds have increased in recent years and produced some outstanding hunting seasons.

Hunters killed 22,557 elk in 2016, which was down 1,670 animals from 2015, but still the second highest in 20 years. (For more perspective, 2015 was the fourth-highest, all-time harvest dating back to 1935.)

Elk hunters in 2016 had 21 percent success statewide, including 39 percent for controlled hunts and 17 percent for general hunts, but general hunts accounted for 62 percent of the harvest.

graph_elk10yrharvest

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

“This is the good-old day of elk hunting,” said Craig White, F&G’s Magic Valley regional supervisor. “There was only one period when Idaho hunters were harvesting as many elk as they are now.”

However, elk herds didn’t survive winter completely unscathed. There was higher calf mortality due to the harsh winter, which means some zones will have a “blip in the recruitment of young bulls,” White said, adding that it will likely be short-term.

Adult winter survival, particularly breeding-age cows, was “bulletproof,” he said, so any decline in herds will likely be replaced next year, barring another extreme winter.

While Idaho is reliving some of its glory years for elk hunting, the location of the animals has changed. During record harvests in the 1990s, Central Idaho’s backcountry and wilderness areas were major contributors. They are less so these days, but other areas have picked up the slack.

“We grow more elk in what I like to call the front country,” White said.

top10elkzones

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Glenna Gomez/Idaho Fish and Game

Harvest results support this. The Panhandle is currently the top elk zone in the state, and the top 10 zones include the Weiser River, McCall, Tex Creek, Palouse, Boise River and Pioneer, all of which have major highways running through them.

Those zones provide accessible opportunities for many hunters, but also have unique challenges because there’s often a mix of public and private lands where the elk roam.

Elk herds are doing so well in some zones, such as the Weiser and Pioneer zones, those herds are over objectives and Fish and Game has increased cow hunting opportunities to thin the herds.

elk

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

But elk hunters in some areas will have to navigate a mix of public and private lands, such as large sections of commercial timberlands in Central Idaho that used to be open to the public, but are now closed.

For new elk hunters, or experienced hunters looking for a new place to hunt, White recommends taking a longer view than this season. Elk populations are likely to remain healthy in the foreseeable future, so now’s a good time to learn a zone where there are abundant herds.

“Be patient,” White advises. “Make it a multi-year commitment, and get to know the area.”

Idaho offers a variety of over-the-counter tags for elk hunters. Out of 28 elk hunting zones, only two are limited to only controlled hunts. Hunters should research each zone and look beyond the general, any-weapon seasons to find additional opportunity. Many archery and muzzleloader hunts provide antlerless, or either-sex hunting, and also early and late hunts.

White-tailed deer

Idaho’s whitetail deer are about as reliable as you can ask for in a big-game animal. Over the last five years, Idaho’s mule deer harvest has swung by nearly 20,000 animals, but during that same period, whitetail harvest varied by only about 10,000 animals, which included an all-time record of 30,578 whitetails harvested in 2015.

whitetail

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Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game

Whitetail harvest dropped about 2,700 animals in 2016, but it was still in the top-10, all-time, and hunters can expect to similar numbers, or more, of whitetails this year.

“We feel we’re in pretty good shape, and it’s going to be a normal year,” said Clay Hickey, wildlife manager for the Clearwater Region.

Winter in prime whitetail country in the Panhandle and north/central Idaho was closer to average than southern Idaho, although Hickey pointed out there was more snow than usual at lower elevations. Fish and Game doesn’t monitor whitetails the same as it does mule deer, but Hickey said there’s no indication of an above-average winter kill.

It’s also been two years since Fish and Game has detected outbreaks of the lethal hemorrhagic disease that hit some local herds hard in recent years. Hickey noted many of those herds have “rebounded as you would expect,” and Fish and Game is starting to get complaints from landowners about too many deer in areas where herds were thinned by the disease.

Whitetail hunters have lengthy seasons and lots of either-sex hunting opportunities, and hunters will see a good mix of age classes, and plenty of mature bucks. Hickey said Fish and Game’s white-tailed deer plan calls for 15 percent of the harvest to be bucks with five points or more (on one side), but it’s currently higher.

“We’re averaging over 20 percent of the bucks in the harvest are five-points or more in almost all our whitetail units, and lots of units are over 25 percent,” he said.

whitetail buck

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IDFG

While the areas north of the Salmon River have the highest densities of white-tailed deer, the animals are widely distributed throughout the state and provide hunting opportunities in most places, but typically at lower densities.

 

WDFW Tweaking North Cascades Elk Management Plan, Looking For Input

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting public comments through Sept. 7 on a draft plan for future management of the North Cascades elk herd, the northernmost herd in Western Washington.

The draft plan for the herd, also known as the Nooksack herd, can be found on WDFW’s website at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01916/

NORTH CASCADES HERD BULL ELK. (WDFW)

In addition to the public comment period, state wildlife managers plan to hold a public meeting on Aug. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sedro-Woolley Community Center.

Written comments can be submitted online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RDCSVVM or mailed to North Cascades Elk Herd Plan, Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.

The North Cascades elk herd is spread out over a large area of Skagit and Whatcom counties. Since the last herd management plan was adopted in 2002, the population of the herd – the smallest that WDFW manages – has rebounded from just a few hundred animals to more than 1,200 elk within the recent survey area.

But a growing elk population also comes with increased potential for elk/human interactions and conflicts. The new draft plan includes several strategies to address those concerns and other management issues.

Key goals of the proposed plan include:

Reducing elk/human conflicts, including minimizing elk damage on private property and elk-vehicle collisions along a stretch of State Route 20;

Offering sustainable hunting opportunities, including an increase of at least 100 square miles available for hunting on private and public lands;

Coordinating and cooperating with the Point Elliott Treaty Tribes on herd management and setting hunting seasons;

Increasing elk viewing and photography opportunities.

WDFW will consider comments received online, in writing, and during the public meeting in drafting the final version of the plan.

1,610 Roadkilled Deer, Elk Salvaged In First Year Of Washington Program

From Aberdeen to Zillah, Camano Island to Rock Island, Naselle to Newport, folks far and wide took advantage of the first full year of Washington’s roadkill salvaging rule.

More than 1,600 dead deer and elk were hauled off the sides of the state’s highways and byways between the time the program began on July 1, 2016 and June 30 of this year.

AMONG THE FIRST ELK SALVAGED IN WASHINGTON LAST JULY WAS THIS BULL NEAR ORTING. (RANDY HART JR.)

True, that’s just a small fraction of last fall’s hunting harvest and not meant to replace it any way.

But the meat that otherwise would have fed coyotes and crows or just rotted in the ditch or a DOT dumping ground instead provided nourishment to families around Washington.

And hopefully, data reported by salvagers will help the state better focus its efforts to prevent roadkill and improve highway safety — the program is the brainchild of a state Fish and Wildlife Commission member who lives near a very bad stretch of US 97 in Okanogan County.

In the meanwhile, a WDFW spreadsheet for all 1,610 deer and elk also provides interesting details on the agency’s most popular move in recent years.

To wit:

PERMITS BY MONTH

The month with the highest number of salvage permits issued was November 2016, with 319, followed by October with 293 and December with 141.

The lowest months were the last three, May 2017 (51), April (63) and June (72).

DEADLY DAYS

Salvagers reported collecting 20 roadkilled deer and elk on November 18th, 19 deer on Nov. 10th and the same number of deer and elk on Nov 13th, as well as 18 deer and elk on Nov. 6th.

(Oct. 17 also had 18 roadkills.)

People undoubtedly were concerned with other things on the 24th of the month — Thanksgiving — but two animals were collected and four reports filed that day (you have 24 hours to record a salvaging).

(Someone in Okanogan also went home with a deer on Christmas.)

FASTEST FILERS

No sooner had the program gone into effect last year than did Naselle and Sequim residents collect the first elk and deer — the former outside their hometown on the morning of July 1, the latter near the Dungeness River bridge that afternoon.

Hard to say when the first whitetail and muley were salvaged, but likely between July 5 and 7 when reports were filed by residents of Cheney, Kettle Falls and Moses Lake.

SPECIES BREAKDOWN

According to WDFW, among the 1,610 deer and elk were:

1,427 blacktails, whitetails and muleys and 183 elk.

Note that deer in three Southwestern Washington counties — Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum — can’t be collected because of issues with ESA-listed Columbian whitetails there.

BY SEX

833 does and cows, and 691 bucks and bulls.

43 were marked down as unknown sex.

BY ANTLER POINTS

230 spikes
141 two-points
81 three-points
59 four-points
32 five-points
17 six-points
4 seven-points.

A bull elk reported by an Auburn resident was written up as having “25” points.

EXTREMES

Salvagers are asked to input the location of where they picked up their deer or elk.

They came from just about everywhere inside Washington, but also the very edges of the state — from the southernmost spot east of Washougal, to just south of the British Columbia border in Blaine and Oroville, and from the mouth of Hells Canyon at the easternmost point of the state, to the Quileute Cemetery by La Push at its western edge.

BY RESIDENCY

Seattleites have little appetite for roadkill, and the same goes for residents of other cities in the core of Pugetropolis.

Hard to say why that might be — perhaps just a function of availability of roadkilled deer and elk along typical travel routes and/or the ability/facilities to butcher any … or we’re just weak-stomached wusses.

But outside those parts, boy howdy, did folks take advantage of the opportunity!

Here are how many salvage permits were filed by city:

Olympia: 50

Spokane: 48
Port Angeles: 43

Ellensburg: 26
East Wenatchee: 22
Shelton: 21
Winthrop: 21
Bellingham: 20

Yakima: 19
Cashmere: 18
Sedro-Woolley: 16
Wenatchee: 16

Aberdeen: 15
Bonney Lake: 15
Colville: 15
Graham: 15
Leavenworth: 15

Bremerton: 14
Buckley : 14
Chehalis: 14
Dayton: 14
Peshastin: 14
Roy: 14
Tonasket: 14
Yelm: 14

Eatonville: 13
Maple Valley: 13
Newport: 13
Oak Harbor: 13
Orting: 13
Port Orchard: 13
Sequim: 13

Moses Lake: 12
Renton: 12
Walla Walla: 12
Winlock: 12

Belfair: 11
Centralia: 11
Cheney: 11
Cle Elum: 11
Naches: 11
Okanogan: 11
Snohomish: 11
Twisp: 11

Arlington: 10
Everson: 10
Mount Vernon: 10
Port Townsend: 10
Puyallup: 10
Randle: 10
Stanwood: 10

If your hometown isn’t listed here, nine or fewer residents obtained a salvage permit.

OUT-OF-STATE COLLECTORS TOO

Of note, five Oregonians collected a roadkilled deer or elk in Washington, as did two Idahoans, one Californian and one New Yorker.

SALVAGER NOTES

When folks fill out their forms, they include humdrum details about the wheres and whens, but also sometimes poignant information about the circumstances. Some examples:

“She was about 3 miles north of Duvall on west side of 203, just north of a barn with two large silos. She had been eating apples.”

“By Peshastin pinnacles”

“Just up river from reds fly shop about .25 miles ”

“Male & female elk killed on 452nd St North Bend”

“Yearling hit by a passing pickup salvaged at once”

“Deer was hit right after the 35MPH sign going into electric city from grand coulee.”

“was driving outside Naches towards bald mountain and hit a doe with my truck.”

“The deer was hit directly in front of my house. The same address where the meat will be stored as listed above”

“I-90 East Bound, South Side of highway, about 2 miles past the WSDOT ‘Elk Ahead’ Readerboard.”

“Officer Kit Rosenberger responded to call of injured deer. He euthanized the deer and gave permission for salvage.”

“A white honda civic hit the deer on north bound I-5 about 5 miles outside of Bellingham.”

“when hiking up at a friends. me and a friend of mine found a mule deer buck hit by a car off the road a ways. ”

“I was driving on hwy 12 just west of the oak creek feeding station. I was going to pull the elk off the road when a WSP Trooper showed up and I decided to salvage the elk, so we went from there.”

“I did not hit the deer but it was very fresh. I did not witness the deer getting hit but it was not badly damaged. It is a very small deer but I did not want to let it go t waste. The mile marker I saw was 411.”

“Deer was struck by an unknown vehicle in front of my home, there were pieces of the vehicle’s front end on the ground nearby. I arrived and found the doe to be deceased but still warm. ”

“A lady hit the deer with her SUV about 2 miles west of Darrington. I was on my way home from work and stopped to assist the driver. She informed me of the deer and said the accident was reported, and a tow truck was on it’s way and she was not injured. I asked if she was interested in the salvage of the doe. She was not. I loaded the animal between 6:30 and 7:00 pm. I hope I was able to give you all the information needed. Thank you for your time, and happy holidays.”

Northeast Oregon Rancher Sentenced For Killing Elk Last Winter

A Northeast Oregon rancher who shot numerous elk on his property last winter received an interesting sentence from a county judge in late June.

Along with fines and loss of hunting privileges, Larry Michael “Mike” Harshfield must work with ODFW and county prosecutors and give three presentations to fellow livestock producers about the right way to deal with elk depredation issues, according to the Wallowa County Chieftain.

AN OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE TROOPER INVESTIGATES AN ELK CARCASS. (OSP)

The 69-year-old Wallowa resident was arrested in mid-April on charges of shooting 12, but while Oregon State Police said that they were sending potential charges for the deaths of 13 more found on neighboring land to county prosecutors, ultimately Harshfield pleaded guilty to illegally killing six.

A long, cold, snowy winter led to more elk raiding the Harshfield hay barn. ODFW said it offered a number of potential solutions, which were declined by the family.

The shootings occurred between December and mid-February.

In addition to the presentations, Harshfield was also sentenced to pay $18,000 in restitution, a three-year hunting ban and two-year probation, according to the report.

ODFW Deploys Drones To Survey North Coast Elk

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

From their vantage point high atop the Oregon Coast Range, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Herman Biederbeck and two researchers from Oregon State University can see almost forever as the first rays of sunlight peek over the top of Saddle Mountain in the distance to the east.

Below is the Young’s River basin and a patchwork of thousands of acres forest land interspersed with clear-cuts – ideal elk habitat.

A DRONE FLIES NEAR SADDLE MOUNTAIN, IN THE FOOTHILLS OF OREGON’S NORTH COAST, DURING INITIAL TESTING FOR USE DURING ELK SURVEYS. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

The researchers, Jonathan Burnett and Cory Garms, both Ph.D. students in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at OSU, want to find out whether unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or “drones” can be used effectively to count elk in this kind of terrain.

Preliminary results of field trials conducted on the North Coast near Astoria suggests that they can.

ODFW HERMAN BIEDERBECK AND OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS JON BURNETT AND CORY GARMS MONITOR THE FLIGHT OF A DRONE. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

“UAS technology has promise to be relatively inexpensive and safe – much safer – than the way we survey elk now, which is generally from a helicopter,” said Biederbeck, a wildlife biologist with ODFW for 38 years.

This year’s field trial in Clatsop County is the first time that UAS technology has been used to count elk in Oregon, although ODFW has used drones to survey salmon spawning in rivers and as well as cormorant abundance along the Oregon coast.

(RICK SWART, ODFW)

ODFW conducts yearly elk population/composition surveys to make sure that age and sex ratios stay healthy.

“It’s part of our mission to monitor these populations to ensure they are being well managed for the public,” said Biederbeck.

This year drones were used in two field trials, one in January and another in March. The first tested the drone camera’s ability to capture imagery that allows biologists to classify elk by age and sex. A later field trial tested the aircraft’s ability to measure elk densities in forest stand types, another useful metric for managing elk.

ODFW currently contracts helicopters at a cost of $1,000 to $1,100 an hour to do this job. The agency staffs them with ODFW employees who look for and document elk in flights conducted year after year over the same survey units for statistical accuracy.

MANNED VS. UNMANNED AIRCRAFT

Each aerial system has its advantages and disadvantages, according to Biederbeck, who notes that with a helicopter, observers can view great expanses of landscape in real time by scanning their eyes in front and to the sides of the airship. Crew members can also ask the pilot to reposition the machine for a better look at animals, which can be especially helpful when it comes to distinguishing elk calves from adults. In addition, helicopters are much heavier and more powerful than drones and can fly in a wider range of weather conditions. The down side is unless they have a hand-held camera on board, observers only get one chance to classify elk – right then and there.

In addition to their relatively low cost, drones have the advantage of recording images that can be reviewed on a computer back at the office. Human safety is one major benefit of the UAS. People can get hurt or even killed in a helicopter. For example, two ODFW biologists, Holly Huchko and Eric Himmelreich, suffered broken bones but fortunately survived a helicopter crash a few years ago while conducting fish surveys on the Umpqua River in southern Oregon.

The drones used in this year’s experiment on the North Coast cost about $1,700 apiece, according to Burnett, although the thermal sensor adds another $3,500 to the cost of the system.

A DRONE SITS ON A LOGGING DECK PRIOR TO TAKEOFF. (RICK SWART, ODFW)

As darkness gives way to dawn, the first of two drones is prepared for flight. It is jet black in color, with flashing red night lights on the sides, and thermal imaging equipment on board. Its job is to detect elk hidden in the trees by keying in on their heat signatures with a heat-sensitive infrared camera.

A second drone – white, and equipped with a high definition video camera – will fly as soon as the black one gets back from its mission. The video camera is mounted on a gimbal that lets the drone operator tilt, turn, and pan the camera with a joystick that can also steer the aircraft.

After a turn at the end of one run along the serpentine-shaped run, the camera swivels from pointed directly at the ground to straight ahead toward the next GPS waypoint. The recording is set to overlap video from each pass so the video from each stretch can be “stitched together” with imaging software to so that every inch of the survey area is pictured.

The drones can fly essentially the same survey areas as helicopter in a single flight, according to Biederbeck, but likely take more passes because cameras do not have the same field of view as humans, who are able to scan the whole horizon and turn quickly from side to side with a simple twist or turn of the head.

With takeoff just minutes away, Burnett double-checks the flight path glowing from a laptop in the back of his SUV. A yellow line on the computer screen shows the exact course the aircraft will follow, a series of switchbacks. The route is made by programming GPS coordinates into the drone’s navigation system ahead of time.

A MAP TRACES THE PATH OF THE DRONE OVER ELK HABITAT. (ODFW)

REGULATORY BARRIERS REMAIN

Each flight lasts about 30 minutes, and the drone follows GPS coordinates automatically, although the pilot can override the navigation software to assume control the vehicle manually. FAA rules require a designated spotter be present and maintain visual contact with the aircraft throughout the flight. The aircraft are battery-powered and are programmed to return to base automatically whenever they detect their batteries are getting low.

This technology is a potentially powerful tool for conducting scientific inquiry, according to Burnett, although many regulatory barriers to effective implementation remain, notably Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules.

“Throughout this study there have been two major regulatory limitations to assessing the true cost-benefit of using UAS for elk survey,” said Burnett. One limitation is the current 400-foot altitude ceiling. The other is the requirement to maintain line of sight on the aircraft during its flight.

Higher altitudes and greater coverage area on each flight would translate to fewer flights and lower odds of counting the same animals more than once, according to Burnett.

“This technology demonstration is one small step in bridging the gap between what we currently can do and what we ultimately want to do,” he said.

Biederbeck and Burnett expect to extend this research by seeking FAA waivers and perhaps acquiring a fixed-wing UAS with up to three-hour flight endurance that may be equipped with both thermal and color cameras.

“There is more operational technology out there. We’ll have to see how costs and FAA regulations affect our ability to use them,” said Biederbeck.

‘They Just Want To See Stuff Die’: 10 In SW WA Under Suspicion Of Widespread Poaching

Fury.

That’s all I’m feeling now.

Overnight, news broke that 10 Southwest Washington residents are being investigated for illegally killing a repulsive number of deer, elk, bears and other wildlife over the last 20 months.

“The death toll continues to increase,” says WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci this morning. “We figure around 100 animals taken during closed season, in excess of limits or without proper tags, but the vast majority are closed season.”

TV news coverage shows head upon head upon head of bucks — 26 found during search warrants served by one-third of Washington’s fish and wildlife officers in March, according to Portland station KPTV.

BUCK HEADS AND A RIFLE SEIZED DURING SEARCH WARRANTS SERVED IN COWLITZ COUNTY IN MARCH. (WDFW VIA KPTV)

Also unearthed, multiple videos of hounds baying bears, a style of hunting that was outlawed 20 years ago. The individuals are believed to have killed close to 50 bruins; in one video, a man can be heard to say that a particular flat had yielded four.

 

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

(WDFW)

Another image shows a bobcat that appears to have been chewed up by dogs.

(WDFW)

The animals are believed to have been killed in both Washington and Oregon going back to at least August 2015.

“If not for the efforts of Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers, who knows how long they’d have continued taking deer,” credits Cenci.

During this past winter’s harsh conditions, OSP wildlife officers set up trail cams to catch those responsible for leaving a trail of headless deer in a prime mule deer controlled tag unit, stealing bucks from legitimate hunters.

(WDFW)

It is unclear if the two men OSP asked for help identifying in mid-April about White River Wildlife Area wildlife violations in early February were tied to the case or not.

“It just kept growing,” OSP Lieutenant Ryan Howell told KPTV about the case. “The offenses, not only did they occur in The Dalles, they were all over the state of Oregon and Washington. This was something that was going on a long time, and something that would continue if we didn’t loop in Washington.”

(WDFW)

It left game wardens seething.

“These individuals involved with this case are what I would term the worst of the worst,” WDFW Region 5 Capt. Jeff Wickersham told KPTV. He said they suspects were “going out there and killing to kill.”

Similarly Cenci, who called the suspects “wholesale natural resource murderers” on camera, can’t answer the question why someone would do this.

“Because they’re just killers. They just want to see stuff die. It’s a sick and twisted mentality; you and I will not get it,” he told Northwest Sportsman. “It’s so shocking. Most human beings wouldn’t do this.”

At first glance, the alleged crimes would appear to qualify as spree killing of wildlife, which allows for straight-away first-degree poaching charges to be filed, although some of the suspects may also be repeat offenders and be subject to that anyway.

The case comes as Washington lawmakers considers WDFW’s budget for the next two years.

“We’re really short on staff,” Cenci says. “Our officers are completely frustrated — they were patrolling areas these guys were wholesale poaching. We need to do more to put more officers in the field.”

While the Eyes in the Woods program is successful and hunters and citizens can be rewarded for turning in poaching tips, more needs to be done to combat despicable acts like this.

“As the Legislature considers our budget, I have to hope they’re aware of our relevance to the quality of life in Washington state,” says Cenci.

Upon learning of the case this morning, a friend of mine was mulling an aspect of sharia law, cutting off the hands of the offenders.

We don’t do that in the United States, but so help me, this is so egregious that I hope when county prosecutors on both sides of the Columbia get these charges, they act on them, cut no deals — zero, none, prosecution to the fullest extent of the law — and absolutely nail the perpetrators for these heinous actions.

Killing for the sake of killing cannot be tolerated.

More Details Emerge On Northeast Oregon Elk Killing

The wife of and an attorney for a Northeast Oregon rancher accused of killing as many as 25 elk this past winter are fighting back.

A week ago it was reported that Larry Harshfield, 69, had been arrested and lodged in jail April 8 on 12 counts of unlawful closed-season take and 12 counts of wastage for a dozen elk found slaughtered on his property north of Wallowa in February, with charges for 13 more rotting away on neighboring ground forwarded to county prosecutors.

AN OREGON STATE POLICE FISH AND WILDLIFE TROOPER INVESTIGATES AN ELK CARCASS. (OSP)

The news led to outrage on social media, but also claims that the full story wasn’t being told.

The Wallowa County Chieftain stated that it was unable to get ranchers to talk to them, but an article out yesterday afternoon sheds some more light on the situation.

Pam Harshfield told The Oregonian that the elk herd in the area has grown tenfold in two decades, making it harder and harder for the family to keep the animals out of the haystacks they put up for cattle they raise.

This past winter, one of the harshest in more than 20 years, compounded things. If you recall from our story about conditions not too far north of here, elk cleaned out an entire shed full of 30-plus-year-old hay on Washington’s Grande Ronde, while in Idaho elk and pronghorn were driven towards homes where they browsed on a deadly landscaping shrub.

“We have to care for our animals all day long in subzero temps and then care for 200 of the State of Oregon’s elk herd all night long,” Pam Harshfield said in an email, reported the paper’s Andrew Theen.

He included a statement from her husband’s attorney, Lissa Casey of Eugene, who castigated the Oregon State Police for putting out a press release on the April 8 arrest of her client, first to local news outlets, then yesterday more broadly.

“Instead of letting this case proceed as other criminal cases do, law enforcement arrested a hard-working rancher to provide information for their press releases,” Casey emailed, Theen reported. “He and his family can’t be silent anymore in the face of the public information campaign the government is waging against him.”

After word broke April 13, it initially caught the attention of Glenn Palmer, sheriff of Grant County, Oregon. Writing on his personal Facebook page at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, he spoke to the cost and damage caused by elk coming to feed on rancher haystacks.

He said that while he “can see and understand frustration … I don’t agree with it but ODFW needs to be in a position to help and mitigate these issues.

That led to a response a couple hours later from the wildlife agency that in fact it had been helping mitigate the issues on the Harshfield Ranch.

Late last week spokesman Michelle Dennehy confirmed to Northwest Sportsman the following statement came from ODFW:

Elk can cause significant damage (especially after a rough winter like this year’s). ODFW works with landowners to in a variety of ways to try to limit this damage. In this case, ODFW has been working with the involved individuals for several years to try to address elk damage on their property. In past, we have helped cost-share alfalfa seed, fertilizer and noxious weed spraying on the property.

This year we issued them a hazing permit and shotgun shells for hazing. We issued elk damage tags to anyone they authorized and who came to us for the tags. We offered to set up an emergency hunt, which the landowners declined because they wanted more control than that program allowed over who could hunt. (These landowners also do not generally allow public hunting which can help address damage). ODFW offered them a kill permit, which they also declined because it requires the permittee to skin, dress, and transport the carcasses to a meat processor for charity which they did not want to do.

ODFW gave the landowners plastic netting to wrap their hay sheds. We were also discussing a plan to supply woven wire fencing to protect their hay sheds. That didn’t happen this winter but we were in discussions to provide in spring.

The Oregonian‘s Theen reports the Harshfields are “hesitant” to allow hunters onto their 450 acres because they would “feel responsible” if bullets were winged at elk in the direction of neighbors’ homes.

Aerial imagery shows structures to the north, west and south of the ranch, with rising open rangeland to the east.

They also question field dressing game without help during such harsh conditions, and claim the venison wasn’t wasted, as it provided carrion to eagles and whatnot.

As it stands, during one of the roughest winters in recent memory, a herd of Oregon’s elk received the toughest of treatments imaginable.

Larry Harshfield will be arraigned next month on the 24 misdemeanor charges, which if convicted could bring fines of as much as $6,250 per count, plus loss of hunting privileges for three years and seizure of any weapon used to kill said elk, according to OSP.

2013 Washington Fall Buck And Bull Prospects

After pulling the plug on the Washington fall big game and bird prospects a few years ago, and then reinstating them shortly afterwards, WDFW has continued to improve its annual hunting forecast and format, and this season’s is the best yet.

Taking a page — pages, actually — from the Rich Finger playbook, Brock Hoenes and Scott Harris have gone all in with a 50-PLUS-page writeup for their district, Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties, some of the best deer and elk ground in the state.

Nothing escapes their spotting scopes and tracking skills.

The duo — Hoenes is a wildlife biologist who used to work with Finger; Harris helps keep private lands open for sportsmen despite some yambags’ best efforts to get them locked up — rank their units by game harvest, hunter density and success; rate them for hunter access; outline major private timberland owners and their entry policies; provide graphs and line charts in every color of the rainbow for just about every two- and four-legged critter that cavorts through the Willapa and Chehalis basins; and throw in an aerial shot or two of where the ducks hang out.

It’s a huge undertaking, and comes complete with a table of contents, to boot.

Jeff Skriletz has done something similar with his prospects for lands along Hood Canal, Finger himself goes big with info on Grant and Adams Counties, and I’m noticing that biologists elsewhere in the state are picking up the pace with the information they’re rounding up annually for the state’s hunters too.

Good work, guys and gals, much appreciated.

On a far, far, faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar lazier note, for all ya’ll looking for info on this fall’s deer and elk hunting around the Evergreen State, take a gander at the bios’ below write-ups — ripped straight off WDFW’s website — and also check out the September and October issues of Northwest Sportsman for more on where to go this season:

FERRY, STEVENS, PEND OREILLE COUNTIES – Dana Base, Annemarie Prince

Deer: The 2013 season will be the third season in which a four-point minimum antler restriction is in place for white-tailed deer within Game Management Units 117 and 121. Any antlered buck is legal for white-tailed deer in the other five GMUs of District 1 during the general seasons. For mule deer, the general three-point minimum on antlered bucks continues district-wide. One of the best opportunities for Youth, Senior, and Disabled modern firearm hunters to take a white-tailed deer, is the 4 day period from October 17-20 ; during this time these hunters can take either an antlerless white-tailed deer or a legal buck.

DYLAN POSES WITH HIS BUCK WHILE ZZIRG, THE BLUE HEELER, LOOKS ON. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

DYLAN OWINGS POSES WITH HIS WHOPPER NORTHERN STEVENS COUNTY BUCK WHILE ZZIRG, THE BLUE HEELER, LOOKS ON. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: The 2013 hunting season will be the second in which only antlered bull elk are legal in the general seasons for all GMUs in District 1. Antlerless elk may still be taken, but only by hunters with special permits. This rule came about by hunter-group request through development of the Selkirk Elk Herd Management Plan.

SPOKANE, WHITMAN, LINCOLN COUNTIES – Howard Ferguson, Mike Atamian

White-tailed Deer: High fawn production in 2012 and the mild winter should combine to produce good survival into this year and good fawn numbers. Herds appear to have fully recovered from hard winters of 2008 and 2009. Numbers of mature buck may still be slightly lower than the 2008 high, but the persistent hunter should have ample opportunity to harvest a legal buck. There is a 3pt minimum regulation in GMUs 127-142 and the late season in these GMUs is by permit only (Palouse Hunt 750 permits offered).

TERRI BATOR WITH A BIG PALOUSE RIVER BOTTOMS WHITETAIL. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

TERRI BATOR WITH A BIG PALOUSE RIVER BOTTOMS WHITETAIL. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Mule Deer: Overall mule deer numbers appear to be stable to increasing in GMUs 130 -142. The bulk of 139 & 142 is private land and buck hunters will have to put in the time to get access, doe hunters should have an easier time given the agricultural nature of these GMUs. We have enrolled many new cooperators in our hunter access program this year in southeast Washington; see the “Private Lands Program” section below and note that the locations are mapped on the GoHunt website. All GMUs have a 3pt minimum and there are no late seasons.

DAVID ERICKSON AND ORRIN COX SHOW OFF DAVID'S 3X3, SHOT OVER THE WEEKEND ALONG THE SNAKE RIVER BREAKS. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

DAVID ERICKSON AND ORRIN COX SHOW OFF DAVID’S 3X3, SHOT ALONG THE SNAKE RIVER BREAKS. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Elk: There are fewer elk in District 2 relative to District 3. Hunting prospects should be similar to last year, with high success for those who can secure access to private lands. GMU 124 offers some public access on private timber companies’ lands with the largest being Inland Empire Paper. Most of our elk herds are found on private land in GMUs 127 & 130, with the majority found on or around Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR).

Turnbull offers only permitted elk hunts (62 cow tags and 1bull tag) to address habitat damage. For those who missed the permit application deadline, the Turnbull permit hunts should be offered again next year. There have been an increasing number of elk seen in Whitman County (GMU 139 & 142) offering new opportunity if permission is gained from private landowners. Some of these appear to be elk that move back and forth between Idaho and Washington, so timing and access to private lands will be the key to successful elk hunting in these GMUs.

ASOTIN, GARFIELD, COLUMBIA, WALLA WALLA COUNTIES – Paul Wik

Big game in District 3 include elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, black bear, cougar, and to a small extent, moose and mountain goats. Elk occur predominantly in or near the forested areas on public lands, although small herds are located throughout the entire district. In recent years, the Blue Mountains elk herd has remainded stable at 5,000 elk. In addition, recent studies have shown that yearling bull survival is relatively high for a general season, and calf recruitment has increased from the lows of the 1980’s and 1990’s. This herd is managed under a spike-only general season with branched-bulls by draw permit only. This can be rugged country with some difficulty getting to the elk.

Mule deer are the more common deer species and are located throughout the district. Higher densities of mule deer occur on private lands where rangelands and agricultural areas come together.

JOSH FITZHUGH, BLUE MOUNTAINS BUCK. (HI-VIZ PHOTO CONTEST)

JOSH FITZHUGH WITH A BLUE MOUNTAINS BUCK. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

White-tailed deer occur predominantly in the foothills of the Blue Mountains and along the riparian areas of the lower elevation rivers (Touchet, Mill Creek, and Tucannon). Highest white-tailed harvest occurs in GMUs 154 and 162, with significant numbers in 145, 149, 178 and 181. Post-hunt buck ratios have remained relatively stable in the high teens to low 20’s with fawn recruitment remaining stable with 45-50 fawns per 100 does. Mule deer densities can be quite low on the National Forest lands, but some large mature bucks are taken each year.

BENTON, FRANKLIN COUNTIES – Sara Gregory

Deer: Most of the District is private, open country farmland. Highest concentrations of deer (mostly mule deer with a few white-tails) are in the Kahlotus Unit (GMU 381), with a large percentage migrating in from northern units starting in October, right around the opening of the modern firearm general season.

Hunter success rates (avg. = 33% for all hunters) tend to be high due to restricted access for hunters and a lack of cover for deer. There are some “Feel Free To Hunt” and “Hunt By Written Permission” acres where hunters can gain access to deer. Pre-season scouting is advisable in order to learn where to hunt and to obtain permission from private landowners.

The newly revamped GoHunt application on WDFW’s website is a good place to initially learn where the private lands access areas are located. It is advised to double check that lands available for hunting previously are still open to the public.

Classification surveys in December 2012 yielded an estimated 18 bucks to 100 does. This value is comparable to ratios observed over the last five years. There should be a good crop of 3 point or better bucks for hunters. Most of these will be harvested during the first few days of the modern firearm season. Later in November, a late muzzleloader general season opens and provides good opportunity for hunters to harvest a buck or antlerless deer.

Elk: Opportunity for elk hunting is limited in the District to lands surrounding the western and southern boundaries of the Hanford Reach National Monument (GMU 372). Hunts are geared toward addressing crop damage on surrounding wheat farms, vineyards and orchards. Elk hunters can pursue elk in Benton County on WDFW’s Thorton and Rattlesnake Slope Units of the Sunnyside Wildlife Area north of Prosser and Benton City. Go here for directions and maps:

On private land, the best way to secure access is to apply for a special permit through the Landowner Hunt Program (LHP). If selected, permit holders are guaranteed a one day guided hunt. Most permits are limited to antlerless opportunity for youth hunters, but a few permits for any elk are issued each year. Surveys in January 2013 yielded a total herd estimate of 668-797 elk with 57 bulls and 23 calves per 100 cows. The high bull ratio is typical for this herd since they can seek refuge on the federal Hanford lands during hunting season.

ADAMS, GRANT COUNTIES – Rich Finger

Deer: Most deer harvest occurs in GMUs 272 (Beezley) and 284 (Ritzville) where post-hunt buck:doe ratios average 21–26:100. Post-hunt fawn:doe ratios indicate herd productivity was moderate in all surveyed GMUs, and buck:doe ratios remained stable or increased following the 2012 season. With the mild winter conditions in 2012, post-hunt populations are believed to have experienced minimal levels of winter mortality so deer hunters should expect average success rates during the 2013 season.

The number of deer hunters in GMU 272 during 2012 (1,405) was similar to previous years (1,337 hunters in 2010 and 1,410 hunters in 2011), and biologists expect comparable participation rates in 2013. Success rates in GMU 272 were equivalent to the long-term average of 25%. Harvest rates during 2013 are expected to be close to 25% and differ little by user-group (Modern Firearm 24%; Muzzleloader 23%; Archery 20%; 69% Permit).

The number of deer hunters in GMU 284 during the 2012 season (832 hunters) was slightly above the long-term average (775 hunters). Hunter success in 2012 (45%; all weapons combined) was also slightly higher than the long-term average of 35%. Biologists anticipate similar participation with success rates that are closer to the long-term average for this upcoming season. GMU 284 is dominated by private property. Hunters should plan to seek out permission to access private lands and/or plan on hunting lands enrolled in the WDFW Access Program as little Wildlife Area land (~1,600 acres) occurs in this unit.

All hunting opportunities in GMU 290 (Desert Unit) are issued through the permit draw. With average post-hunt ratios of 45 bucks:100 does, and 60% of bucks being classified as >2.5 years old, high success rates are expected to continue in 2013. Forty-one percent of land in GMU 290 occurs as the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area, thus public opportunity is widely available. The area consists of riparian areas that are associated with the Winchester and Frenchmen Wasteways, and is surrounded by rolling, sandy dunes with varying densities of shrub cover. The majority of the private agricultural land in this unit occurs throughout the western half.

POINTS 1 THROUGH 10 FOR WHY TO PUT IN FOR A DESERT UNIT TAG. (DICK HEMORE)

POINTS 1 THROUGH 10 FOR WHY TO PUT IN FOR A DESERT UNIT TAG. (DICK HEMORE)

Harvest in GMU 278 (Wahluke) is again expected to be low in 2013 compared to other general season units in District 5. During the 2012 season, hunters harvested 67 deer, a record for this unit. Since 2001, hunters have averaged 38 deer per year in GMU 278. Hunter success in 2012 (25%) was higher than the long-term average of 18%. GMU 278 offers approximately 36,000 acres of public lands as part of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Complex, most of which is open to hunting.

Elk: Elk are extremely rare and have not historically been a management priority in District 5. Resident elk herds do not exist in GMU 272 (Beezley), GMU 278 (Wahluke), and GMU 290 (Desert). These trends are not expected to change in the near future. Because of the significant potential for crop depredation issues, WDFW does not encourage the establishment of elk herds in District 5. WDFW keeps elk herd numbers low by providing any-elk opportunities during the general archery and modern firearm seasons.

In District 5, hunters killed 21 elk last season, all of which were taken by modern firearm hunters. Hunters in GMU 284 (Ritzville) harvested the most elk (16) in this district. Because harvest levels have been extremely low until recently, biologists do not conduct annual surveys for elk in GMU 284.

Elk that are harvested in GMU 284 are most likely part of a herd that is known to occur at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. Consequently, harvest in GMU 284 is probably dependent on whether or not that herd migrates to GMU 284 during the hunting season rather than a function of population size and growth. The number of elk harvested in GMU 284 gradually increased from 4 elk in 2005 to 22 elk in 2011 and then declined to 16 elk in 2012. This fluctuation in harvest is further evidence of the dynamic nature of elk migration from Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Hunting Prospects: Hunters are not encouraged o hunt elk in District 5, due to low elk numbers and success rates. The most likely chance to be successful is in GMU 284. However, the majority of this GMU consists of agricultural and other private lands, so access may be difficult.

OKANOGAN COUNTY – Scott Fitkin, Jeff Heinlen

Deer: District 6 supports the largest migratory mule deer herd in the state and Okanogan County has long been prized by hunters for its mule deer hunting. Prospects for mule deer look good this year. Following three consecutive winters of good fawn recruitment, hunters can expect to see moderate numbers of younger bucks; however, the relative availability of older age class bucks should be the best in years. Last year’s post season survey result of 34 bucks per 100 does is the highest this ratio has been in decades, indicating excellent buck carryover. Summer forage conditions appear favorable, so dear should be in good physical condition come fall.

THE STUD OF ALL THE MOUNTAINS, COMBINED, IN THE WORLD. (WDFW)

THE STUD OF ALL THE MOUNTAINS, COMBINED, IN THE WORLD — PETE AND CONNER FOCHESATO’S TRIPOD BUCK. (WDFW)

During the early general seasons deer will be widely distributed on the landscape and not yet concentrated in migration areas or on winter range. Mature bucks in particular are often at high elevations in remote locations as long as succulent vegetation is available. In general look for deer taking advantage of the rejuvenated summer forage within recent burns including the 2006 Tripod Fire, as well as other areas holding green forage into the fall.
During the late permit seasons, the majority of deer will have moved to winter range areas at lower elevations on more southerly slopes. In District 6, WDFW Wildlife Areas and immediately adjacent federal lands are good bets for high deer numbers in late fall, although in low snow years, some mature bucks may linger at higher elevations.

For those hunters with 2nd deer permits in Deer areas 2012 -2016, remember that those permits are good only on private land. Permit holders are responsible for making contact with private land owners to secure hunting access.
Generally speaking, white-tailed deer are significantly less abundant than mule deer west of the Okanogan River but are found in most all drainages up to mid-elevations, particularly those with significant riparian vegetation. The Sinlahekin Valley and surrounding lands in portions of Unit 215 are the exception, supporting a robust whitetail population.
In this area, many white-tailed deer are found on private lands, so prospective hunters wishing to target white-tailed deer may want to seek permission in advance of the season to access individual ownerships. The eastern one-third of the district (GMU 204) holds roughly equal numbers of mule and white-tailed deer and both are widely distributed across the unit on both private and public land.

No new major regulation changes are on tap for the 2013 seasons. Permit numbers have been adjusted slightly, with a few more late buck permits and a few less antlerless permits available overall.

2012 District 6 Deer Harvest Summary: General season hunters harvested 2,288 deer from the 10 game management units comprising District 6, a 13% increase over 2011. In addition, general season success rates improved for all user groups and ended up as follows: Modern – 16%, Muzzleloader – 23%, Archery – 33%, and Mulit – 25%. Special permit holders harvested 357 deer in District 6, 226 antlerless and 131 bucks.

Modern firearm hunters accounted for about 65 percent of the general season harvest, and archers took about 53% of the total antlerless harvest. As is typical, GMU 204 (the District’s largest unit) yielded the greatest overall deer harvest (825 animals). GMUs 215, 218, 224, and 233 also produced good tallies. These five units combined accounted for 75% of the total number of deer taken in District 6.

Elk: Elk are few and far between in Okanogan County, particularly west of the Okanogan River. In GMU 204 where the majority of the District’s limited harvest occurs, elk are a bit more abundant and on the increase, but still generally occur only in small groups scattered over the landscape, primarily in the Unit’s eastern half. Hunters are reminded that the elk regulations have changed in GMU 204 to an “any bull” general season harvest instead of the traditional any-elk season.

2012 District 6 Elk Harvest Summary: Elk are scarce in Okanogan County, and District 6 hunters harvested only 12 in 2012, four more than in 2011. Ten of the twelve came from GMU 204, and all but one were taken by modern firearm hunters.

CHELAN, DOUGLAS COUNTIES – Dave Volsen, Jon Gallie

Deer: Mule deer hunting is the bread and butter of the Wenatchee District. While the district does support a few white-tailed deer, it is mule deer that dominate the attention from hunters. Chelan County has become a destination hunt for many mule deer enthusiasts across Washington, with late season limited entry permits being highly prized. Within the district a hunter has the opportunity to pursue deer across a range of habitats; in high alpine basins along the crest of the Cascades or across expanses of sagebrush in Douglas County.

2013 should be another great opportunity year for harvesting adult bucks in Chelan County. Our management goal of a minimum of 25 bucks per 100 does post season was met in all our survey areas, along with retaining a high ratio of adult bucks in the population. Across Chelan County, the post season ratio was 28.8 bucks per 100 does, with a range from 26.7 to 30.5 in 2011. Juveniles composed 38 percent of the bucks and fawn ratios were high. Winter conditions were reasonable, with snow levels across most of the winter range at low to normal levels. All these factors point to a good recruitment of yearling and adult bucks into the next hunting season.

CHAYSE BROOKS (LEFT), DOUGLAS COUNTY MULEY. (JASON BROOKS)

CHAYSE BROOKS (LEFT), DOUGLAS COUNTY MULEY. (JASON BROOKS)

Hunters took 1,777 deer off the district in 2012, 1,488 bucks and 289 antlerless. The highest harvest came off GMU 247 in Chelan County at 257 deer and in Douglas County GMU 248 with 208 deer. The percentage of 4-point bucks in the antlered harvest was the same for both counties at 38 %. Douglas County had a greater percentage of 3-point bucks at 48% whereas Chelan had 39%. Chelan County, on the other hand, produced a higher percentage of 5-point bucks at 22%, and Douglas the lower percentage at 14%.

Douglas County is a consistent producer of mule deer opportunity, and conditions should be similar in 2013. Unlike Chelan County, Douglas County is dominated by private lands, and as such, access to those private lands dictates the amount of impact a hunting season has on the population. Douglas County is composed of relatively open habitat with an established road network. These factors make deer more vulnerable than in the rugged closed canopy mountainous terrain of the Cascades.

Our general firearms seasons seem to have been unseasonably warm and dry over the past few years, making deer hunting tough. The Chelan County mule deer herd is migratory, spending winters on the breaks along the Columbia River, but dispersing into the large expanse of the Cascades during summer.

As early as mid-September, deer start responding to changes in vegetation by moving downward in elevation and occupying north facing slopes where conditions are cooler and wetter, and forage is of better quality. From mid-September through the onset of winter, deer are responding to changes in the quality of the available forage and utilize those areas that best meet their needs. By mid-November bucks are in a rut condition and focused on breeding, however, before that time (during our October general season) they are focused on food and security.

If we were to observe a typical hillside of mule deer habitat in the Cascades over the growing season and through the fall, we would see it change from bright green in the spring and summer to light green to yellow, to orange, to red, to brown, then to bare branches. While we are seeing changes in color, mule deer are perceiving changes in forage quality. The summer forage that support deer and give them the opportunity to produce young and grow antlers does not retain its high quality all year, so as it changes, so do the habitats that deer occupy.

While hunting on winter range is appealing because hunters can see long distances, the majority of deer will still be in areas of better quality forage and higher security. Most deer will be in thick cover where the food is better and they are better protected; these are usually the brushy north facing slopes or at elevations much higher than typical open mule deer winter range.

Douglas County offers a similar but different situation for deer hunters. Because of the private lands issue, hunters have less opportunity to freely pursue deer across habitats. The drier nature of shrub-steppe habitat dictates that deer use those areas where forage quality remains higher longer while balancing the need for security. Large expanses of sagebrush, while not providing the best forage, can give the security deer need as well. In the broken coulee county, topography becomes security and riparian vegetation provides food resources. Deer in these areas often become expert at living in small secure habitat pockets where they meet their needs and avoid hunters.

Elk: Almost the entire harvest of elk in the Wenatchee District comes from Chelan County; part of the Colockum herd. A few scattered elk do get harvested from Douglas County, however, that harvest is not consistent from year to year. Liberal harvest seasons have been put in place in Douglas County to keep elk from becoming established in the farming dominated landscape. The Colockum Herd is currently over its population management objective at an estimated 6,500

elk. While Chelan County elk are the northern extension of that herd, there has not been a dramatic increase in elk numbers, and we feel the population is stable.

Hunters harvest an average of roughly 45 elk each year in Chelan County. Success rates between weapon types vary and overall success varies from year to year. In 2012 muzzleloader hunters had an 11% success rate while archers had a 1% rate and modern firearms hunters 4.5%. In 2012 a total of 45 elk were harvested in District 7, with most (37) coming from GMU 251 and 4 coming out of GMU 245.

The recent change to a true spike rule for the Colockum has shown increases in escapement of yearling bulls, and mature bulls use portion of Chelan County as security and wintering habitat. Recent research has expanded our understanding of the Colockum Herd and there are plans to look deeper into the ecology of the adult bull portion of the population.

Elk in GUMs 245and 249 occur at low density and in small dispersed bands. Local hunters that live and work the area are often the hunters that prove to be successful in harvesting these elk. Elk hunting in GMU 249 consists of all public land and is within the USFS Alpine Lakes Wilderness. While the GMU offers an opportunity for an over the counter archery tag for a branch-antlered bull, elk are at very low density and occupy extremely rugged terrain that does not allow the use of motorized vehicles.

Game Management Unit 251 offers elk opportunity throughout the majority of the unit; however, elk density is not very high. General seasons fall under antler restrictions that make harvesting spike elk more challenging. Harvest occurs across the GMU; however, the majority of the elk hunting occurs between Blewett Pass to the west, the city of Wenatchee to the east, and the mountainous and timbered habitat south of State Highway 2. The Mission unit does have a significant amount of private lands and hunters are urged to make sure they know where they are when hunting elk in the area.

There are no notable changes in elk hunting opportunities for District 7 in 2013.

KITTITAS, YAKIMA COUNTIES — Jeff Bernatowicz

Deer: Deer hunting in District 8 has been the worst in the state for a number of years. The average success the last 5 years has been 8%. In 2012, the statewide average was 28%. The 2010-2012 harvests were the lowest in recent history. There have been mild winters and decent fawn production, but there hasn’t been much of a population response.

There are some signs the population might be starting to increase, but don’t expect great hunting. Hunter numbers have declined with the deer population. Many of the remaining modern firearm hunters are probably setting up camp and claiming their favorite spot for elk season. If you are looking for relatively low hunter densities, consider the higher elevations of District 8. Hunter success is typically highest in GMU’s 335 (Teanaway) and 342 (Umtaneum), but so are hunter numbers.

Elk: This district is the best in the state for elk hunting. However with that distinction comes relatively high hunter densities. Opening weekend is usually crowded. However, a recent trend has been for hunters to pull up camp and head home before the second weekend. If you are looking for a higher quality experience, consider hunting the last 2-3 days of the season. Surveys in spring 2013 showed increased elk populations and production. Since calves surveyed in March are spike bulls in the fall, bull harvest is expected to increase in 2013. Both the Yakima and Colockum herds are above objective and antlerless opportunity is being increased.

For big game hunters in eastern Washington, drawing a special permit in the quality bull category is the ultimate opportunity. That certainly applies to District 8 in the south-central part of the state where the majority of quality bull permits are available. Our advice to most hunters who come here is to hunt the general elk season opportunistically for spikes, but keep putting in for special permit hunts and accruing bonus points, so that someday you will draw a quality elk permit and already know the country for lining out your hunt.

WASHINGTON HUNTERS DRAWN FOR QUALITY HUNTS LIKE OBSERVATORY AND PEACHES RIDGE STAND A CHANCE OF TAKING WHOPPER BULLS, LIKE THIS ONE STEVE ALLEN DOWNED LAST SEPTEMBER. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

WASHINGTON HUNTERS DRAWN FOR QUALITY HUNTS LIKE OBSERVATORY AND PEACHES RIDGE STAND A CHANCE OF TAKING WHOPPER BULLS, LIKE THIS ONE STEVE ALLEN DOWNED. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

CLARK, SKAMANIA, KLICKITAT COUNTIES – Dave Anderson, Eric Holman, Nicholle Stephens

Deer: Deer populations are generally stable in lower elevation units such as Washougal (568) and Battle Ground (564), as well as the Klickitat County GMUs, i.e. West Klickitat (578), Grayback (388), and East Klickitat (382). However, deer populations remain suppressed in the Cascade Mountain GMUs, i.e. Lewis River (560), Wind River (574), and Siouxon (572).

Deer harvest and success is remarkably consistent within District 9 and a general season total harvest of approximately 2,500 bucks representing 15-20% hunter success is again anticipated during the 2013 hunt. Please see both the Game Harvest Statistics and Game Status and Trend Reports on the Hunting page of the WDFW website for much more information on deer management in District 9.

Successful hunting for black-tailed deer is primarily a function of the effort, focus, and energy that hunters put into the hunt. Black-tailed deer thrive in heavily vegetated habitats and are often very nocturnal in nature. This means that successful black-tail hunters must be in position early in the morning and carefully hunt near sources of food and in secure cover.

Bucks travel more during the rut when they cover large amounts of territory searching for does in estrus. This makes bucks more vulnerable as they spend less time hiding and are sometimes found in “open” habitats, i.e., clear-cuts and meadows. Not surprisingly, approximately one-third of the annual buck harvest in Region 5 occurs during the 4-day “late buck” hunt held each November.

PHILLIPS ALSO FILLED HIS MUZZLELOADER TAG WITH THIS 3X4 MULEY DEER FROM THE GOLDENDALE AREA. (ROB PHILLIPS)

ROB PHILLIPS FILLED HIS MUZZLELOADER TAG WITH THIS 3X4 MULEY DEER FROM THE GOLDENDALE AREA. (ROB PHILLIPS)

Within District 9, GMUs 554 (Yale), 560 (Lewis River), 564 (Battle Ground), 568 (Washougal), and 572 (Siouxon) offer an attractive general-season hunting opportunity. Hunters should note however, the firearm restrictions in GMUs 554 and 564 (see page 81 of the 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations.)

Those interested in a more trophy-oriented deer hunting opportunity might consider any of the Klickitat County Units. GMU 578 (West Klickitat), GMU 388 (Grayback), and GMU 382 (East Klickitat) are all managed under a 3-point or larger antler restriction. Collectively, the Klickitat GMUs support an annual harvest of over 1,000 3-point or larger bucks. Please see the graphics below illustrating the annual harvest in each of the Klickitat Units. Also, please review the deer hunting regulations closely before going afield as the rules differ in each unit and none of the Klickitat GMUs allow general-season late-buck hunting

Elk: Elk in District 9 are managed as part of the Mt. St. Helens Herd. Please see the St. Helens Elk Herd Plan available on the WDFW website for more information:

Elk hunting within District 9 is managed under a variety of seasons, so check regulations closely before going afield. Two specific details of elk management include the fact that GMUs 388 (Grayback) and 382 (East Klickitat) require Eastern Washington elk tags while the remainder of District 9 is within the Western Washington Elk tag area.

Additionally, GMU 564 (Battle Ground) and 554 (Yale) are Firearm Restriction GMUs.
GMU 560 (Lewis River) offers the most and possibly the best elk hunting in District 9. The majority of this area is public land and within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Access during the modern firearm season and hunter success can be dependent upon early season snow levels.

GMUs 388 and 382 in Klickitat County have very few elk and are more often considered better for deer hunting. GMU 564 in Clark County only has elk in the extreme northern portion of the GMU. This area has a mix of public and private lands and knowledge of ownership is important before planning your hunt in this area.

COWLITZ, LEWIS, WAHKIAKUM COUNTIES – Pat Miller, Stefanie Bergh

Deer: Several GMUs in this district are tops in the state for black-tail deer harvest. The highest general season harvest in 2012 occurred in 501 (Lincoln), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood), and 550 (Coweeman). The majority of the antlerless harvest occurs during the general archery and muzzleloader seasons since there are very few antlerless special permits.

Deer hunting is often best at the end of the general season as conditions in the heavily vegetated west-side improve for stalking and moving through the woods quietly. The best conditions often are at play during the late buck hunt–consult the pamphlet for unit listings and dates. Deer are “edge” animals and finding places with good forage and hiding cover nearby is a great starting point. Hunting just before or after a heavy storm can be a good strategy, as animals will reduce feeding during storms. The most successful hunters study the area carefully and move very slowly, constantly searching for deer.

Elk: This district is always either number one or two in statewide harvest for elk. The highest general season harvest in 2012 occurred in 506 (Willapa Hills), 520 (Winston), 530 (Ryderwood), and 550 (Coweeman). Additionally, there are many permit hunts in District 10; the majority of which are antlerless permits to support the goal of reducing the Mt. St. Helens herd. Three GMUs-522 (Loo-Wit), 524 (Margaret), and 556 (Toutle)-are permit-only for both cow and bull elk. In this district in 2012, 1,458 elk were harvested by permit and 1,728 during the general season. Generally, a 5-point elk would be a nice trophy in this district as 6-point bulls are few and far between.

Big game populations in Cowlitz and Lewis counties were influenced by late spring storms in 2013. The survey index that was conducted for winter elk mortality showed high loss in 2012/2013, indicating a reduction in yearling animals and some loss of older animals as a result of the winter conditions. The influence of these winter losses may impact elk numbers for a few years as the reduced recruitment impacts the population over time. The lowland areas of Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties probably did not see such losses and those might be good areas to focus on during the 2013 season. Those units include 530 (Ryderwood) and 506 (Willapa Hills).

THURSTON, PIERCE COUNTIES – Michelle Tirhi

Black-tailed Deer: Black-tailed deer population surveys in District 11 are limited and consist of one survey done in the highest quality location. Branched antler, spike, doe and fawn ratios are stable to increasing over previous years. Commercial and state timberlands continue to provide the best opportunity for deer hunting. Hunters are encouraged to scout regenerating clear cuts. In particular, Vail Tree Farm (GMU 667) and Hancock Timber Resources Group ownership (Kapowsin Tree Farm in GMU 654 and Buckley and White River Tree Farms in GMU 653) continue to be worthy hunting areas for both deer and elk.

A new limited access recreation program for Vail Tree Farm begins August 1 2013. Hunters will be required to purchase an access permit in order to access Vail Tree Farm. Vail permits are $150 each with a maximum of 750 permits to be sold with two vehicles allowed on each permit. Recreational leases are also available which allow a group to bid on a leased area; two leased areas are being offered on Vail in 2013. Additional information can be located on the Weyerhaeuser website or by calling 866-636-6531.

High elevation trophy black-tail hunting experiences can be found in the eastern portions of GMUs 653 (White River) and 654 (Mashel) accessed by US Forest Service road and trail systems that lead to high mountain hunting areas, including portions of the Norse Peak, Clearwater, and Glacier View Wilderness Areas and Crystal Mountain Resort (outside ski boundaries). A permit must be purchased to access Hancock timberlands; information can be obtained by calling 800-782-1493.

Warm weather over the past four hunting seasons, in particular over weekends, has resulted in lower harvest than expected. Hunters’ best option is to wait for cloudy, colder weather. General season deer harvest in District 11 has been relatively stable over the past five years with a weak decline. In 2012, archery hunters enjoyed a 17.6% success rate, modern firearm hunters a 20.8% success rate, and muzzleloaders a 10.9% success rate during general season within the district.

Elk: Both the North Rainier and South Rainier Elk Herds are partially contained in District 11, providing ample opportunity to harvest elk. Elk availability should continue to increase in GMUs 652 (Puyallup), 653(White River) and 654 (Mashel) as the North Rainier Elk Herd continues to recover, having met recovery goals over the past 10 years. Antlerless restrictions, winter elk habitat closures, and permit hunt restrictions in GMU 653 continue to benefit herd recovery in that unit. Hunters report a quality hunting experience and quality bulls for those fortunate enough to be drawn for the GMU 653 bull only permit hunt.

The larger portion of each elk herd migrates down from high alpine meadows in Mt Rainier National Park to lowland winter range; public lands and private commercial timberlands bordering the park are good prospects. Hunters are encouraged to scout for elk leaving the Mt Rainier National Park and following the Carbon River northwards into the Clearwater Wilderness Area and the White River into the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The Elbe Hills State Forest and UW Pack Experimental Forest in GMU 654 is a good prospect for deer or elk and can be accessed by boot, bike, or horse during the general deer or elk season. Vehicle access during the hunting season in Elbe Hills is allowed only for hunter’s having a disabled access permit. Elk continue to increase in GMUs 666 (Deschutes) and 667 (Skookumchuck) as sub-herds of the South Rainier elk herd continue to increase and expand on and around the Centralia Coal Mine and Skookumchuk Wildlife Area. Hunters are encouraged to scout the area from the Skookumchuk Wildlife Area south to the northern boundary of the Centralia Coal Mine (GMU 667).

Non-migratory elk continue to increase on private farmlands in GMUs 652 (around Graham, Buckley, and Enumclaw), GMU 667 (Yelm area) and GMU 666 (foothills of Capitol State Forest). However, hunters must request permission to access private lands, and are encouraged to obtain permission weeks in advance of the season from the landowner (e.g. visit property and ask for permission).

A new permit hunt is being offered within a select area of GMU 652 (Puyallup) in the elk damage area 6013. Ten antlerless elk permits (any weapon) are provided for the dates 1 through 20, 2014. Elk Hunt Area 6013 is comprised primarily of agricultural lands, hobby farms, and ranch homes and supports approximately 100-150 total elk. Access can be limited and hunters interested in this permit are encouraged to seek access onto private property in the 6013 hunt area.

General season elk harvest has been gradually increasing over the past five years across District 11. Archery hunters experienced a 12.8% success rate in 2012, modern firearm hunters a 13% success rate, and muzzleloaders a16.7% success rate (as compared to the statewide average success rate of 13.5%)

KING COUNTY – Chris Anderson, Mike Smith

‘Black-tailed Deer: Population surveys have not been conducted for several years throughout District 12, but hunting prospects are believed to remain largely unchanged from last year based on anecdotal observations.

GMU 422 is newly designated this season and covers all of Vashon and Maury Islands. Hunting access on Vashon and Maury islands is largely on private agricultural and hobby farm properties. Hunters must take time to network with communities and property owners for opportunity and access.

Deer in GMU 454 (Issaquah) continue to be managed with liberal seasons designed to prevent road kills and keep damage issues at acceptable levels in highly-developed areas. This unit is approximately 90% private land and access continues to be a problem for hunters. Success in this unit may well depend on getting to know your neighbors and broaching the subject of hunting as a means of protecting their fruit trees and vegetable beds. Firearm restrictions are in place because landowners are concerned about safety. Bow hunters should have an advantage in gaining permission.

GMU 460 (Snoqualmie) provides good hunting opportunities throughout most of the unit. However, hunters are advised to scout their preferred hunting areas well in advance because state and private timberlands are gated, with restricted access. Forest management on these lands is largely favorable to deer and high quality opportunities are available for those willing to lace up their boots. Hunters should focus on early seral forests (< 30 years old) adjacent to mid (40-80 years old) or late successional (> 80 years old) stands. Additional emphasis should be placed on riparian forest habitats that provide ample forage and cover.

GMU 466 (Stampede) is a patchwork of private land, State lands, and Forest Service lands (Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest). It consists largely of second growth timber with some old growth on Forest Service lands. This unit consists of a lot of steep ground, with about 2,500 feet in elevation change. Be prepared for early winter snowfall, which has the potential of stranding hunters, but also the potential to improve success.

Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics based on hunter reporting can be found at Deer Harvest Reports.

Elk: Elk hunting prospects throughout District 12 should be similar to last year. Many of the above comments for deer hold for elk as well. However, hunters should place greater emphasis on riparian forest habitats and agricultural areas throughout the district. Many of District 12’s elk reside on private land; please make sure you have permission before you hunt.

SNOHOMISH, ISLAND, SAN JUAN COUNTIES – Ruth Milner

Deer: District 13 includes Game Management units GMU 448 Stillaguamish) and GMU 450 (Cascade and the majority of the harvest comes from GMU 448. In 2012, 850 hunters harvested 118 deer in GMU 448 (Stillaguamish). Hunter success averages around 14%. In GMU 450 (Cascade), 135 hunters had a success rate of 5% and harvested 6 deer in 2012.

Much of GMU 448 is forested, with trees in a 20-45 year age class on public lands. This results in relatively tightly stocked stands where seeing deer may be challenging. On private timberlands, clear cutting has increased, so more open areas will be available. However, food may be limited in clear cuts, so deer may be harder to find than anticipated. For hunters who enjoy walking or hiking in un-crowded conditions, GMU 448 offers a very rewarding opportunity to get outside and enjoy the season.

GARY LUNDQUIST'S STREAK CONTINUES -- ONCE AGAIN HE'S BAGGED HIS ANNUAL BUCK, THIS ONE ON ORCAS ISLAND LAST MONTH. (RUGER PHOTO CONTEST)

GARY LUNDQUIST BAGGED THIS HIGH-RACKED BUCK ON ORCAS ISLAND. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Very little public land is available for hunting on any island including Whidbey Island. Hunters should have permission from landowners prior to hunting private property. The Island County Public Works Department owns a few small parcels on Whidbey and Camano Islands that are open to hunting. Hunters should contact them directly for maps and restrictions.

Limited deer hunting will also be allowed on the Trillium Community Forest property, owned by the Whidbey/Camano Land Trust. Hunters should contact the Whidbey Camano Land Trust for additional information regarding access dates, maps etc. at http://www.wclt.org/stewardship-trillium-community-forest/. Note: hunting on this property is for the purpose of habitat improvement, thus hunting is limited to a few specific days within the total deer season. Deer hunting at Naval Air Station Whidbey is restricted to military personnel.

Public access on islands within the San Juan Archipelago (San Juan and Skagit Counties) is also extremely limited. Deer in the islands are plentiful, but typically smaller than their mainland cousins. Most hunting occurs on private property; in San Juan County, written landowner permission is required in order to hunt anywhere in the county. Small parcels of public land are open to hunting on Lopez Island on Bureau of Land Management ownership. BLM lands in the San Juan Islands are administered out of the Wenatchee field office. Hunters should call (509) 665-2100 for information.
Beginning this year, several islands have been designated as a separate GMU. This change will
provide more accurate and specific harvest information in the future.

Elk: District 13 does not have an established elk herd within GMU 448 (Stillaguamish) boundaries. Elk occur sporadically along Highway 2 at the south end of GMU 448 in small numbers, and sometimes come south of GMU 437 (Sauk) onto the Sauk Prairie in the north end of the GMU. However, few to no elk are harvested from this GMU in a given year. For hunters looking for new opportunities, we recommend scouting the area thoroughly because, although elk sightings have increased, they tend to move around and are not always present in GMU 448.

SKAGIT, WHATCOM COUNTIES – Chris Danilson

Black-tailed Deer: Black-tailed deer surveys have not been conducted in District 14 for several years; however biologist’s observations and other anecdotal reports suggest that deer population numbers and densities are down in GMUs 418 (Nooksack), 426 (Diablo), 437 (Sauk) and 450 (Cascade). Conversely, in portions of GMU 407 (North Sound), the most urbanized GMU in the District, local deer densities can be quite high and can be a nuisance for some property owners and agricultural operations.

From a hunting perspective, GMU 407 unarguably provides the best opportunity for harvesting a deer in District 14. In 2012, 574 deer were harvested in GMU 407, as compared to 119 in GMU 418 and 121 in GMU 437. The key to a successful harvest in this GMU is securing the appropriate permission to hunt on private land and scouting the area prior to the hunting season. Hunters who intend to target deer in developed areas would be well advised to check with local jurisdictions regarding firearm restrictions. Also see page 81 of the 2013 Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations Pamphlet.

Elsewhere in District 14, private industrial timber lands and property managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources are largely gated due to timber theft, dumping, vandalism and other problems. However, many of these roads can be accessed on foot or with mountain bikes, allowing those willing to do the work, access to deer that dson’t get as much hunting pressure. Be sure to check with the appropriate land owner/manager and obey all posted rules and regulations.

Finally, for those seeking a high elevation trophy black-tail hunting experience, areas within GMUs 418 (Nooksack), 426 (Diablo), and 437 (Sauk) that can be accessed by Forest Service road and trail systems lead to high mountain hunting areas such as the Mount Baker Wilderness Area in Whatcom County and northern portions of the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area in extreme southeastern Skagit County. While relatively few deer are harvested in these GMUs (particularly GMU 426), some very nice bucks were harvested in 2012. Quality buck tags for modern firearm hunters currently provide the best opportunity in these GMUs. Of these 60 tags issued in 2012, harvest success rate among those that reported ranged from 45.5 percent (GMU 418) to 57.1 percent (GMU 426).

The only changes proposed for black-tailed deer hunting for the 2013-2014 season are increased access to private lands in GMU 418 for the modern firearm quality buck hunt. This is made possible by a new provision in the annual landowner agreement between WDFW and Sierra Pacific Industries.

Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics based on hunter reporting can be found at Game Harvest Reports.

Elk: The North Cascades (Nooksack) elk herd continues to grow and expand into areas of formerly unoccupied habitat. This includes agricultural areas where they cause damage to crops and farming infrastructure. Until recently, data from post-hunt surveys (conducted in late March to early April) indicated that the population was expanding at a rate of 6-7 percent. However, over the past two years, lethal removal of elk in agricultural landscapes by landowners, master hunters, and tribal hunters appears to have slowed this somewhat. The total population size is currently around 1,200 animals. Bull:cow and calf:cow ratios from 2013 surveys were 37:100 and 27:100, respectively, indicating that winter survival was similar to previous years.

Given the limited hunting opportunities for this elk population, hunter success is an inadequate indication of population dynamics. However, it is worth noting that, of the 23 limited entry GMU 418 (Nooksack) bull permit holders, only 16 hunters harvested an elk (8 spikes and 8 branch antlered bulls) resulting in a harvest rate of 70 percent. Since 2007 when this hunt began, hunter success has ranged from 61 to 93 percent.

Elk hunting prospects in District 14 are limited to the North Cascades (Nooksack) herd, with the best hunt opportunity being a limited-entry bull-only harvest in GMU 418. Established in 2007, this hunt continues to produce quality bulls and relatively high hunter success. General season elk harvest opportunities in GMU 407 (North Sound) and that portion of GMU 448 (Stillaguamish) in Skagit County exist on both private and state lands, however elk densities in these two units are low and hunting pressure quickly pushes those animals into adjacent GMUs that remain closed to general harvest. On the positive side, the North Cascades elk herd continues to grow and expand its range, increasingly the likelihood for future harvest opportunities.

Hunting regulation changes for elk in District 14 are intended to address elk-related agricultural conflicts. These include:

? Expansion of Elk Area 4941 eastward to the Dalles Bridge near Concrete
? Inclusion of Elk Area 4941 for the limited entry bull elk hunt
? 10 new archery tags (5 early and 5 late) for antlerless elk in Elk Area 4941
? 10 new muzzleloader tags (5 early and 5 late) for antlerless elk in Elk Area 4941
? Addition of muzzleloader season in GMU 407 (North Sound) with liberal antler restrictions and season dates
? Extension of early archery season in GMU 407 with liberal antler restrictions

Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics based on hunter reporting can be found at Game Harvest Reports.

KITSAP, MASON, EASTERN JEFFERSON COUNTIES – Jeff Skriletz

Deer and Elk: Deer hunting opportunities continue to be promising across the district. While many of the commercial timberlands may be gated off to vehicles, walk-in opportunities abound. These clearcuts as well as those on state property produce some of our biggest bucks.

Meanwhile, elk hunting opportunities in District 15 have steadily declined over the past several decades. In recent years, the majority of elk in the district have moved from clearcuts to private pastures and hay fields during the hunting season. Hunters are always encouraged to arrange access before applying for special permits in the district.

However, for those who like to get away from the crowds, the rugged terrain of Olympic and Skokomish Units can provide a quality hunting experience for both elk and deer.

Access Ratings
One of the more common questions is about the level of access. While hunters generally enjoy a high level of access to all GMU’s, the level of access varies by motorized and non-motorized. Additionally some GMU’s are quite rugged.
In this guide, each GMU is given a rating from 1 – 3.
? A “1” rating means that it has a high level of motorized access. In this case most if not all of the main logging roads are open, as well as most of the spur roads.
? A “2” rating means that there is a mix of open roads and closed roads. Anyone hunting these areas should be aware that they can end up in a situation where it will be necessary to pack their animal several miles.
? A “3” rating means that most of the GMU is accessible by non-motorized means.
? A rating with a “+” indicates that at least a portion of the GMU is very steep and rugged. A hunter could end up packing a harvested animal several miles in very rough country. So while the roads are good for distributing hunters there are some portions that can be a little on wild side!

GMU 621 – Olympic Access rating = 2+
Elk in this unit are generally found on lower elevation private lands along the major river valleys. This GMU is a mixture of private timberlands, private lands, DNR, and USFS. Access to USFS land is generally allowed year-round. DNR land is accessible to motorized vehicles or walk-in only in most areas. Green Diamond Resources generally opens some of their gates to motorized access from September to the end of December; however, exceptions for fire danger and active logging operations may delay gate openings. For areas behind closed gates on Green Diamond Resources land, access is by non-motorized means throughout the year.

GMU 624 – Coyle Access rating = 3
Other than the resident elk herd in the Sequim area, the Coyle Unit is usually considered a deer area. Although there are scattered timberlands that are publicly owned by DNR, most forest lands are privately owned. The largest property manager is Olympic Resource Management which is a division of Pope Resources Company. Maps of their properties can be found at
www.orminc.com. Although some DNR and private mainlines may be open to motor vehicles, most hunting access is walk-in or by non-motorized vehicle.

GMU 627 – Kitsap Access rating = 3
The Kitsap Unit is a highly human developed deer area, with private property throughout. However there is still ample hunting opportunity on forest lands. DNR owns a considerable amount of land in the western part of the unit. Olympic Resource Management (Pope) and Green Diamond Resource Company also have major holdings here. Whether state or private, virtually all access in this unit is walk-in or by non-motorized vehicles. Be sure to obtain permission to trespass if hunting on private property not owned by one of these major timber companies.

STACY ADAMS BAGGED HER FIRST DEER EVER ON THE OPENER, HUNTING NEAR PORT ANGELES. "I WAS JUST HOPING FOR ANYTHING THAT HAD HORNS, BUT MY HUSBAND SAID IF I WAS PRAYING I SHOULD PRAY FOR A 3 POINT OR BIGGER. I REPLIED WITH 'IF I GET SOMETHING 3 POINTS OR BIGGER THAT I WOULD HAVE IT MOUNTED.' SO NOW WE ARE OFF TO HAVE IT MOUNTED." (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

STACY ADAMS BAGGED HER FIRST DEER EVER ON LAST YEAR’S OPENER, HUNTING NEAR PORT ANGELES. “I WAS JUST HOPING FOR ANYTHING THAT HAD HORNS, BUT MY HUSBAND SAID IF I WAS PRAYING I SHOULD PRAY FOR A 3 POINT OR BIGGER. I REPLIED WITH ‘IF I GET SOMETHING 3 POINTS OR BIGGER THAT I WOULD HAVE IT MOUNTED.’ SO NOW WE ARE OFF TO HAVE IT MOUNTED.” (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

GMU 633 – Mason Access rating = 3
Although elk are occasionally harvested here, the Mason Unit is best known as an area for deer. DNR has forestland throughout with extensive holdings on the Tahuya Peninsula. But in the Mason Unit, most of the deer hunting occurs on private property controlled by the Green Diamond Resource Company and the Manke Lumber Company. These lands are currently open to public hunting but, other than a few mainlines, are restricted to walk-in or non-motorized vehicle access.

GMU 636 – Skokomish Access rating = 2+
This GMU is a mixture of private timberlands, private lands and USFS. Elk in this unit are generally found on the lower elevation private timberlands primarily owned by Green Diamond Resources and along the upper Wynoochee River Valley. Green Diamond Resources generally opens some of their gates to motorized access from September to the end of December; however, exceptions for fire danger and active logging operations may delay gate openings.

For areas behind closed gates, access is by non-motorized means throughout the year. Upper elevations and those portions of this GMU in the upper Wynoochee River and Skokomish River Valleys are primarily USFS with most areas open year-round for vehicle access. Some USFS land is gated and closed to motorized access to minimize disturbance to elk.

GMU 651 – Satsop Access Rating = 2
The primary area accessed by elk hunters is owned by Green Diamond Resources. They generally open some gates to motorized access from September to the end of December; however, exceptions for fire danger and active logging operations may delay gate openings. For areas behind closed gates, access is by non-motorized means throughout the year.

CLALLAM, WESTERN JEFFERSON COUNTIES – Anita McMillan, Shelly Ament

Black-tailed Deer: Black-tailed deer monitoring is accomplished by tracking the harvest, hunting effort and gathering data on survivability, recruitment & mortality rates (using collared deer studies and aerial
census methods). One of those rare opportunities is happening where an active research project is occuring in the district allowing district biologists, partner Tribal biologists and volunteers to get some hands on collaring and tracking of the deer including identifying mortality causes whenever possible. See the Vectronic website describing the study.

During the capture portion of the study it was difficult to observe the deer west of the Elwha River, which presumably was due to low densities of deer. The detectability of deer was much higher east of the Elwha. Some does captured east of the Elwha on the lower foothills of mixed DNR & Private land were reported to be exceptionally large in size compared to others captured in Western Washington according to Dr. Cliff Rice the lead Researcher.

WESTERN DISTRICT 16: Western District 16 is generally sparse of deer. This area includes GMUs 601 (Hoko), 602 (Dickey), 603 (Pysht), 607 (Sol Duc), 612 (Goodman) and 615 (Clearwater). In 2012 a total of 363 deer (360 antlered and 3 antlerless-Pysht permits) were reported to be harvested, 25% being 3pt or better. Biologists, Enforcement Officer observations, and published reports indicate that deer population numbers and density are generally down throughout the district west of the Elwha.

EASTERN DISTRICT 16: Eastern District 16 includes the northwestern portion of GMU 621 (Olympic) and the northern portion of GMU 624 (Coyle), with these same GMUs crossing east and south into District 15 (eastern Jefferson County). Because the data on harvest is recorded by GMU, the harvest figures presented here include all of GMU 621 & 624, extending into District 15. The 2012 deer harvest in GMU 621 & 624 was 709 (605 antlered, 104 antlerless = 43 (permit +archery)/621 hunt, 61”any deer” general/Deer Area 6020+624 archery).

The portion of District 16 east of the Elwha River has black-tailed deer populations that are readily observed (presumably due to higher densities) and in many areas can often be observed in groups, especially at low to mid-elevations. In these areas the deer are often perceived to be a nuisance by some property owners and agricultural operations, especially in the Coyle, GMU 624.

Deer Area 6020 was established years ago to allow harvest of does to help curb the trend of “too many” deer, incorporating the area north of Highway 101 between Port Angeles and eastern Miller Peninsula. Doe harvest is allowed within Deer Area 6020 during the general seasons. This area is primarily private land, but it is worth inquiring with landowners about hunting access.

Note that much of the state land on Miller Peninsula, within this Deer Area 6020 is State Parks where hunting is not allowed. The key to a successful harvest is securing the appropriate permission to hunt on private land and scouting the area prior to the hunting season. Hunters who intend to target deer in developed areas would be well advised to check with local jurisdictions regarding firearm restrictions.

The mid and lower elevations of Olympic GMU 621 have high densities of deer as well, with some scattered blocks of DNR ownership that offer hunting on public land. Private industrial timber lands and property managed by the DNR are largely gated due to timber theft, dumping, vandalism, and other problems. However, many of these roads can be accessed on foot or with mountain bikes, giving those willing to do the work, access to deer that don’t get as much hunting pressure. Be sure to check with the appropriate land owner/manager and obey all posted rules and regulations.
Annual harvest reports and harvest statistics for deer based on hunter reporting can be found on the WDFW website.

Elk: The Roosevelt elk in District 16 are various sub-herds of the Olympic Elk Herd – one of 10 herds identified in the state. The Olympic Elk Herd is an important resource that provides significant recreational, aesthetic, cultural, and economic benefits to the people of the state.

Much of the elk hunting for GMU’s located within the District is restricted to a 3pt minimum bull-only harvest. Some elk herds migrate down from high alpine meadows in Olympic National Park (ONP) to lowland winter range. Public lands and private commercial timberlands bordering the park are good prospects. Hunters are encouraged to scout for elk that may leave ONP and travel along major river drainages. Law Enforcement Officers convey that they are getting reports that elk groups in the Pysht (GMU 603) have increased slightly in the past few years.

Hunting seasons have been established to allow recreational use and as a tool for managing elk populations within the district. The eastern District GMU 624 rarely has a report of elk harvest from the general season outside Elk Area 6071. There are no general elk seasons open in Elk Area 6071. Harvest within Elk Area 6071 is limited to Master Hunter Elk Hunt Damage Hunt Permits (Hunt Choice 2722 for Designated Areas in Region 6 that may include Elk Area 6071) along with some Damage Permits.

A non-migratory elk herd of approximately 50-60 elk continues to populate private residential and agricultural lands in the Dungeness Valley (GMU 624). Master Hunter damage hunts are used as a tool to help manage landowner conflicts associated with this herd. These hunts are administered by a WDFW designated Hunt Coordinator. Special permit applications are required. Check the WA Big Game Hunting Pamphlet or the WDFW website for more information.
The Clearwater (GMU 615), Dickey (GMU 602), and Sol Duc (GMU 607) have the highest elk harvest in District 16. These units contain the largest portion of public land without restricted access.

The Hoko (GMU 601), Pysht (GMU 603), and Coyle (GMU 624) have very limited opportunities for General Season hunters. Most of these units contain private land and many of the roads on timber lands are gated. Hunting on DNR lands, U.S. Forest Service lands, and private timber lands in other GMU’s within the District can yield good results. However, it is important to note that there are several areas where vehicular access is limited. Hunters must obey all posted signs and regulations.

GRAYS HARBOR, PACIFIC COUNTIES — Brock Hoenes, Scott Harris

Deer: Probably the most frequent question we get from hunters is, ?What GMU should I hunt in?? This is not always an easy question to answer because it depends on what weapon is going to be used and what type of hunting experience the hunter is looking for. Some hunters are looking for a quality opportunity to harvest a mature buck, while others just want to harvest any legal deer in an area with few hunters.

The ideal GMU for most hunters would have high deer densities, low hunter densities, and high hunter success rates. Unfortunately, this scenario does not exist in any GMU that is open during the general modern firearm, archery, or muzzleloader seasons in District 17. Instead, because of general season opportunities, the GMUs with the highest deer densities tend to have the highest hunter densities as well. For many hunters, high hunter densities are not enough to persuade them not to hunt in a GMU where they see lots of deer. For other hunters, they would prefer to hunt in areas with moderate to low numbers of deer if that means there are also very few hunters.

The information provided in Table 3 provides a quick and general assessment of how GMUs compare with regard to harvest, hunter numbers, and hunter success during general modern firearm, archery, and muzzleloader deer seasons. The values presented are the 5-year averages for each statistic. Total harvest and hunter numbers were further summarized by the number of deer harvested and hunters per square mile. This approach was taken because comparing total harvest or hunter numbers is not always a fair comparison because GMUs vary in size. For example, the average number of deer harvested over the past 5 years during the general modern firearm season in GMUs 663 (Capitol Peak) and 648 (Wynoochee) has been 245 and 284 deer, respectively. Just looking at total harvest suggests deer densities are quite similar between the two GMUs. However, when harvest is expressed as deer harvested/mi2, we come up with an estimate of 1.167 in GMU 663 and 0.661 in GMU 648, which suggests deer densities are probably much higher in GMU 663 than they are in GMU 648.

Each GMU was ranked from 1 to 11 for deer harvested/mi2, hunters/mi2, and hunter success rates. Then, the three ranking values were summed to produce a final rank sum. GMUs are listed in order of least-ranked sum to largest. Comparisons are pretty straightforward because bag limits and seasons are the same for most GMUs. Differences that are present and should be considered are:

1. GMU 681 has a 2-pt. minimum harvest restriction during all general seasons.

2. GMU 673 has an any buck harvest restriction during the general archery season, while all other GMUs (except 681) have an any deer harvest restriction.

deer

(WDFW)

Elk: Probably the most frequent question we get from hunters is, ?What GMU should I hunt in?? This is not always an easy question to answer because it depends on what weapon is going to be used and what type of hunting experience the hunter is looking for. For example, not all GMUs are open to muzzleloader hunters, and archery hunters are not allowed to harvest antlerless elk in every GMU.

In addition, some hunters are looking for a quality opportunity to harvest a mature bull. Although large mature bulls do exist in District 17, they are not very abundant and we usually advise hunters seeking a mature bull to spend their efforts in District 16 in either the Matheny (GMU 618) or Clearwater (GMU 615) GMUs. Both GMUs are adjacent to Olympic National Park (ONP) and have the reputation of holding some very nice bulls.

The ideal GMU for most hunters would have high densities of elk, low hunter densities, and high hunter success rates. Unfortunately, this scenario does not exist in any GMU that is open during the general modern firearm, archery, or muzzleloader seasons in District 17. Instead, because of general season opportunities, the GMUs with the highest elk densities tend to have the highest hunter densities as well. For many hunters, high hunter densities are not enough to persuade them not to hunt in a GMU where they see lots of elk. For other hunters, they would prefer to hunt in areas with moderate to low numbers of elk if that means there are also very few hunters.

The information provided in Table 2 provides a quick and general assessment of how District 17 GMUs compare with regard to harvest, hunter numbers, and hunter success during general modern firearm, archery, and muzzleloader seasons. The values presented are the 5-year averages for each statistic. Total harvest and hunter numbers were further summarized by the number of elk harvested and hunters per square mile.

This approach was taken because comparing total harvest or hunter numbers is not always a fair comparison because GMUs vary in size. For example, the average number of elk harvested over the past 5 years during the general modern firearm season in GMUs 681 (Bear River) and 673 (Williams Creek) has been 109 and 266 elk, respectively. Just looking at total harvest suggests a much higher density of elk in GMU 673 compared to GMU 681. However, when harvest is expressed as elk harvested/mi2, we come up with an estimate of 0.425 in GMU 673 and 0.303 in GMU 681, which suggests elk densities are probably more similar between the two GMUs than total harvest indicates.

Each GMU was ranked from 1 to 11 for elk harvested/mi2 (bulls and cows), hunters/mi2, and hunter success rates. Then, the three ranking values were summed to produce a final rank sum. GMUs are listed in order of least rank sum to largest. The modern firearm comparisons are the most straightforward because bag limits and seasons are the same in each GMU.

For archery seasons you have to consider that antlerless elk may be harvested in six GMUs and 4 GMUs are open during early and late archery seasons. These differences are important when comparing total harvest or hunter numbers among GMUs. For muzzleloader comparisons, some seasons are open during the early muzzleloader season and others during the late muzzleloader season. Hunters should keep these differences in mind when comparing and interpreting the information provided in Table 2.

elk

(WDFW)